Ladies Day at the Ashbourne Cricket Club

Beneath the trees I see a rickety wooden stand, and a row of old couches.

 

Pumping music floods across the lush outfield. It’s jazz/techno/funk/fusion with an accompanying saxophonist. He’s slight, sporting a pork pie hat and dwarfed by black speakers on tall tripods. Previously living next door, he returns annually to provide the soundtrack. It’s the strangest broadcast I’ve heard at a cricket match.

 

After a while my ears and eyes accept these peculiarly arranged nuptials and welcome the enhanced festivity.

 

Ladies Day at the Ashbourne Cricket Club is underway.

 

Thirty-odd women (the hyphen’s crucial here…) are at six long tables on the long off boundary, affably ignoring the sporting action. Now, does Ladies Day carry a possessive apostrophe? Do they own it or is this adjectival? Which better illustrates their experience? My fear is that the women do most of the work for their own day, but then I’m assured the males began preparations in the kitchen around dawn.

 

Along with its pocket-sized community the oval’s nestled in an attractive valley at the confluence of Bull Creek and Finniss River. It’s just up from the church and the Greenman Inn. We’re between Strathalbyn and Willunga, and the Mount Lofty Ranges sits right there to our immediate west.

 

At the 2016 census this hamlet recorded a population of 261, yet fields two senior teams and a junior side. Adelaide Oval’s soil was originally sourced in Ashbourne, and further elevates the celebrated status of the club.

 

The cricket itself is almost apologetic with looping deliveries, batting which prods towards the cherry rather than bludgeons it and fielding that’s a tragi-comic mix of purposeful and accidental. The infield appears impenetrably spongy. It’s like underwater cricket. The scoring shots seem to be sixes and lofted fours but even these are like fluky pitching wedges from high handicappers. Instead of a Kookaburra they could be using foam bats and a nerf ball.

 

Just up from the lone saxophonist there’s an outdoor bar so I ask the chap in charge, ‘What’s the score?’

 

Fishing about in an esky he replies, ‘Langhorne Creek is 7/70 after 35 overs.’

 

‘40 overs a side? You shouldn’t have many to chase down.’

 

He laughs. ‘It’s B Grade cricket. No guarantees.’

 

Indeed. I was in a Kapunda side that was rolled for about 35 against Riverton. But they only got the runs with nine down. Fonz, a team-mate in Kimba, played in a country carnival team that was knocked over for two.

 

By contrast I later learn that in October 1954 Ashbourne icon H.R. Meyer took 6/65 against Langhorne Creek.

 

He was 69 years old.

 

A late-innings six is skied into the foxy mid-wicket scrub and melancholy minutes follow. The musician continues, as U2 sang, to ‘breathe’ into his saxophone. Brows are furrowed and the fielders stomp about in the undergrowth. At the Ladies Day tables much wine is downed, obliviously, before the ball is hoiked back at the wicket, finally.

 

Lunch is then served with a handful of deliveries remaining in the visitors’ innings and the amassed ladies begin to file towards the clubrooms. I hope they enjoy their chicken and (tossed) salad.

 

Suddenly, a midwicket slog at us under the trees. The barman (and likely OHS&W officer) yells, ‘Watch out!’ But I can’t see for the canopy. The ladies remaining put their hands over their glasses of Sauvignon Blanc and not their heads in an impulsive display of their true personal priorities. On the rope a fielder snatches at the ball. He turfs it. Blokes behind the bar shake their capped bonces, with one suggesting he has the ‘best hands in the club.’ The ball dribbles over the boundary.

 

Ladies Day and the resident saxophonist continue. I know none of the players, spectators, or officials but there’s been rejuvenation in seeing their shared enterprise, even for twenty wistful and nostalgic minutes.

 

We hop in the car. We’ve a winery appointment.

 

 

 

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About Mickey Randall

Now whip it into shape/ Shape it up, get straight/ Go forward, move ahead/ Try to detect it, it's not too late/ To whip it, whip it good

Comments

  1. I’ve learnt so much about cricket from reading this. I thought I knew lots, even had a poster of Bruce Yardley over my desk in year 12, but it’s all clear to me now – turf, kookaburra, cherry and more. Great read Mickey.

  2. roger lowrey says

    Mickey, as a wise old man once said to me about low scores, you can only tell how a cricket game is going after both sides have batted once. RDL

  3. Thanks very much Someone. I maintain that the late Bruce ‘Roo’ Yardley was our finest gully fielder. He was our International Cricketer of the Year in 81/82 and was bowling when John Dyson took his famous outfield catch.

    RDL- Yesterday in Pakistan being the latest example which proves the wise old man’s point. Should we have enforced the follow-on? Thanks.

    On Saturday Ashbourne won their semi to take them into the grand final. Good luck!

  4. I can beat Kapunda’s 35, but cannot beat the Fonz (who can?). In about 1975 in the less than mighty S.A. United Church Cricket Association D Grade, my mob batted first, made about 140, then the other mob made about 170. Mid afternoon, second Saturday of the game…what to do? Have another bat, of course. However, one of our blokes was getting married later that day, several members of wedding party were in team, including officiating Reverend. OK, says Captain Me, reverse batting order, wedding blokes go first, rest to follow. Complete shambles, all out 13…whispered queries from groom at wedding “How’d we go?…red faces , “all out 13 including few sundries”. Not mentioned very often since !!

    Great story though Mickey, thanks, would have been a good afternoon methinks.

  5. roger lowrey says

    Mickey, late breaking information from thise who know things I don’t.

    Apparently there are nutritionists, hydrologists and a veritable phalanx of other miscellaneous wellness (sic) hangers on who provide advice on these decisions rarely hitherto considered even indirectly by Law 14.1.

    I doubt Trumper, Armstrong and Benaud et al would have benefited from any of this but it seems the current crew need such support lest they “dash their foot against a stone” (Luke 4/11).

    RDL

  6. Bucko- 13 is not flash. I remember a story of a team getting knocked over for about 80 which is not that exceptional but the telling point was that one bloke made about 78 of them and everyone else got a duck. I’ve heard a few stories about weddings and cricket and these generally don’t end well.

    RDL- as that wise old man also said, ‘cricket’s a simple game.’ You’ve quoted some chap called Luke but I reckon he’d get better press these days if his name was Mitchell. No Australian side can take the field without one.

  7. Love a winery appointment

  8. Indeed, Smokie! We went to Mollydooker wines and did a flight. Most of the wines, even the whites were huge, coming in around 14.5/15%. The pick of them, for mine, was the Scooter, a really engaging merlot.

    Ahh, midwinter, mid-footy season and being mid-way through a Saturday evening red!

  9. Luke Reynolds says

    Great read Mickey. Love the ladies protecting their Sav Blanc’s as a priority.

    Nothing better than a small town punching way above it’s weight.

  10. Thanks Luke. Two highly successful small town cricket clubs called the Bulls!

    The Ashbourne Bulls B grade had a convincing win in their grand final chasing down Strathalbyn’s modest total with about 12 overs to spare. The club secretary Trish also informed me that Ladies Day raised $3000.

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